Our Digital Divide Threatens Our Community

Americans continue to consume more data and the amount has steadily increased from 25 to 40 percent annually even before the pandemic. Our digital divide threatens to push our communities further behind and create further inequality in our city.

Currently, in our city’s core, close to 72% of our city and more in low-income neighborhoods do not have access to fiber-based high-speed internet, which causes limited connectivity and lack of economic development in these areas.

Current

Memphis Fiber Map

Our current network has a very limited amount of fiber in our city core, and it’s mostly copper coaxial cable. It was build in the 1980s to offer cable TV. It does not offer the speed of fiber for data upload/download and is aging.

Pastor Ricky Floyd leads the Pursuit of God Church in Frayser. His congregation recently bought the strip mall across the street from the church. It houses the church’s Regroup Boutique and HiFlo Podcasting Studio. Church members are also building a barber shop, nail salon, and internet cafe in the plaza. Floyd says poor internet causes problems running the congregation’s current businesses. He’s praying better internet will be available when additional companies open.

Eunice Poole is one of many residents who come to Frayser Branch Library. She says her home internet is unreliable and is at the branch many days because it’s better than home, but one librarian says that even the service there can sometimes be a challenge.

Parker Hays is a former veteran Memphis News Photographer who used to have to transfer video files back to the company he worked for on a daily basis. Hays talks about the internet challenges he faced on a routine basis, while trying to do his job.

Tanja Mitchell owns Mitchell Consulting in Uptown, a community where she lives and works. Mitchell says her internet is unreliable. She is concerned it could cause her to lose business if service is not improved.

Ashley Jones is the Community Development Real Estate Manager for Habitat For Humanity. Jones says residents living in several of the Habitat communities recently built have difficulty receiving reliable internet. Some residents have to take measures in one Binghampton neighborhood, often found only in rural areas.

Stats

Memphis Ranks 90th in Average Download Speed

Broadband speeds, the five lowest ranking cities hovers around the 100 Mbps mark, aside from Memphis, which came in at 49.01 Mbps. There’s a large disparity between the slowest cities and the fastest cities, with Frisco, Texas clocking in the fastest median download speed of 260.31 Mbps

Stats

Memphis Ranks 99th Out of 100

Latency (measured in milliseconds) is a measure of how quickly a device gets a response after a request has been sent. Low latency means the server is responding quickly, whereas high latency means the server is responding slowly. When measuring latency, the lower the number, the better.

Network performance metrics based on the most recent quarter of Speedtest Intelligence® data for the 100 largest cities across the U.S (by population counts, according to Census Bureau data). 

Why is The Smart Memphis Fiber Initiative Important?

The proposed Smart Memphis Fiber Initiative will amend Ordinances 5551 and 5734 relative to Smart City Fiber Access Systems and aligns with the City of Memphis Smart City Plan and Memphis 3.0, focusing on Digital Equity, Digital Literacy, and Workforce Development.

Smart Memphis Fiber is more than just infrastructure; it invests in a more equitable, digitally literate, and economically vibrant Memphis. Access to high-speed internet is as fundamental as water, gas, and electricity and is considered the fourth utility. This initiative echoes the City’s commitment to embracing technology for the betterment of its residents and future generations. This investment promises to enhance service delivery to citizens.

This proposed ordinance amendment is designed to incentivize investment in Memphis’ broadband infrastructure by existing and new broadband network providers by waving the right of way fees and will stimulate future investment in fiber broadband in Memphis.

Telecommunications Companies who desire to build a fiber optics system that meets the qualifications below are eligible to receive exemption from City Right of Way Access fees and a reduction in permitting fees for up to 20 years.

Benefits

Expected Outcomes

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60% citywide and 60% low-income premises broadband penetration will:

Reach every corner of the city

Provide high-speed, quality broadband where it doesn’t yet exist

Improve digital access in long under-served Memphis communities while enabling us to realize our Smart Memphis plan

Double usage amongst all households

Triple broadband usage amongst low-income households

Smart Memphis Fiber will bridge the digital divide, providing high-speed broadband where it’s needed most. This strategic investment aligns with the City’s commitment to promoting digital equity. Investing in fiber infrastructure expansion is a fundamental step in nurturing small businesses, nonprofits, and remote work options, all of which have the potential to contribute significantly to job growth. It’s an investment in the infrastructure and skills needed to thrive in the digital economy of the 21st century.

Access to high-speed internet is as fundamental as water, gas, and electricity and is considered the fourth utility.